Paperwork: An interview with Hannah Lobley

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We loved hearing how Hannah Lobley became a paper artist by accident! Hannah originally specialised in wood working during her degree, but when she accidentally left a favourite book in the rain and was reluctant to part with it, she started to investigate how she could preserve the papers and celebrate their qualities. This led her to develop a new material which she calls Paperwork. Each page is layered and transformed back into a solid wood-like material, and from this Hannah uses traditional wood working techniques to create beautiful items for the home, including bowls and clocks. As Hannah says, “Ultimately, wood becomes paper becomes wood again.” We caught up with Hannah to find out more about her work….

We really love the way your making process reveals the texts and colours from the papers you use. Can you tell us a bit about how you manipulate your papers to create such wonderful depth and pattern in your work? 

After working with paper and books for 15 years now I understand and can, to a certain extent, manipulate the colours and patterns that will appear. But what I love about my process is that, with many of the pieces, I don’t know what will appear. I can design and work the shape and form, but due to the many layers involved, the surface patination is uncontrolled. When I start wood working a piece, it is a capricious process that surprises me every time. The beauty of this element means that every piece I make is unique and each surface texture will never be produced again.

What’s your studio like? Do you have a favourite tool? 

My studio is a converted outhouse in our garden. In the summer it’s great to get the doors open and feel like I’m working outside. It’s messy and dusty (just how I like it), but all my tools have their own special place, so I can find them easily!

My favourite tool would have to be the lathe, my Dad taught me how to use it. It’s where the magic happens and where this process all began.

A bowl on the lathe.

Where’s your ideal place to go for inspiration?

I love going for walks with my kids and clearing my head, but I would say I’m most inspired when I’m in the studio ‘playing’! I am a problem solver, so I like to get in there making. I don’t draw lots of designs, I need to see things three dimensionally. By making and seeing them this helps my designs evolve.

Turning a clock face.

If you can, describe a typical day for you?

Much like everyone else, my day is a day of juggling. After breakfast it’s the school and nursery run, then it’s straight home to make a cup of tea (very important to get me going!) Then, it’s either a day in the studio making orders and new pieces or in front of the computer answering emails and writing proposals.

We know you’ve been working on something new lately…tell us about your new oak shelves.

I initially designed them as children’s shelves, but the feedback I’m receiving is that many adults love them too. They were inspired by my 3 year old, who is crazy about dinosaurs. He and his brother have so many books and they always fall over on their shelves. I started looking at bookends, but they were all very predictable. Then I realised I was positioning the heavy books at the end to hold up the rest; it occurred to me that this one could be shaped and static, creating a decorative and functional aspect. Once I started working into the books, the patterns that were appearing were amazing, but you could still see that they were produced from books. I have so many different designs in my head now, but I just need the time to make them!

How do you begin to design new products?

The designs can develop in many ways. As I mentioned earlier, it could be through trying to solve a problem in daily life, through experimentation in the studio, by talking to other creatives, travelling, etc. I have a notebook full of ideas that, again, I just need time to develop. I will loosely sketch a design, but my wood working tools and Paperwork material are my pen and paper. I start working into the laminated paper and the design develops.

If you were to collaborate with another maker who would you like that to be?

So difficult to narrow it down, but I really love Michelle Mckinney’s work, it’s so delicate and light, completely opposite to mine.

What are your exhibition plans for the rest of the year ahead?

It’s building up to being a busy year… In May and June, I will be exhibiting at West Bridgford Library in Nottingham as part of a Marvellous Materials Exhibition.

In June I will be showcasing a piece of work with Design Nation at Eunique Design Fair in Karlsruhe, Germany. This work will be inspired by Nottingham and Karlsruhe, as they have been twinned cities since 1969.

The autumn will see a visit north to take part in Art& at York Racecourse for the first time. I will be exhibiting with a group of Derbyshire based Design Nation artists.

I am currently working with a Vintage Car Art company, recycling old Motor Sports Magazines. I’m really looking forward to seeing what we produce.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this interview. Thank you so much to Hannah for answering our questions. It’s always so interesting to see behind the scenes, especially when the smooth, beautifully finished end products have been through such an exciting and messy process! Head this way to shop from Hannah’s collection. Hannah’s turned bowls are beautiful as well as being functional because they’re all finished with a coat of varnish. We also love her clocks and her new shelves. Please do feel free to get in touch if you’d like to explore a bespoke commission with Hannah.